Archives for posts with tag: blaxploitation

undergroundbloodred

This 2010 grade-Z kick-fest, just released to Redboxes on a double feature disc with the superior gangster study Blood Red Presidents, stars writer-director Wilbert Berthaud, Jr., as Mike, an urban martial artist who to his regret gets mixed up with an underground fighting ring to help pay the bills and support his little brothers. Berthaud might have done better to concentrate on his duties behind the camera, as, high kicks aside, the young man has little in the way of screen presence and could have spent more time developing his script. More interesting is his unkempt afro, which goes through mutations during the film and in one scene is displayed half-fluffed, the other half of his head subdued in cornrows, a rare (probably unintentional) piece of poetic imagery that captures Mike’s divided self, as he receives occasional visits from his own dark side. This and other elements make for a somewhat offbeat action picture, its oddity failing, however, to compensate for quality. The action scenes and comic relief are tolerably good, but with no compelling characters to cheer to a victory, Underground is an indie picture best left interred.

2 out of 5 possible stars. ICA’s advice: for a good underground fighting drama, check out Lorenzo Lamas in Night of the Warrior; or for decent kung fu mayhem with a black star, see any Jim Kelly movie.

[WARNING: SPOILERS]

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Underground is:

6. Feminist. Jade (Sara Walsh) proves to be a worthy opponent for Mike and even beats him on one occasion.

5. Class-conscious/anti-business. A representative entrepreneur is a condescending slob. Businessmen throw away money “like it’s candy.” “You think because you can afford designer suits that you can tell me what to do?”

4. Anti-police. A goofy loser/small-time crook (Donald Foley in an amusing performance) turns out to be a goofy loser/undercover cop who forgets to load his gun for the final confrontation. Humorously, his ample flab makes him impervious to an assailant’s pressure point attacks. Police play an antagonistic role during the climactic sequence.

3. Pro-miscegenation. Mike has a mulatto girlfriend (Sara Rattigan). Black gangster Monro is intimate with blonde henchwoman Jade, who sits on his lap and calls him “Sir”. “Such a pretty face,” she says on meeting the star/screenwriter.

2. Multiculturalist. With important exceptions, the film takes place in what would appear to be a largely postracial society, with blacks, whites, Hispanics, and Asians interacting without regard for each other’s racial differences. Underground opens itself up to the charge of stereotyping, however, when Mike, channeling his inner janitor, uses a mop handle as a weapon and then, channeling his inner African cannibal, bites Monro on the ankle during their final confrontation.

1. Anti-Semitic. Mike’s exaggeratedly hook-nosed friend Jason (Mike Harb) turns out to be a Judas.

Boss Nigger

Boss Nigger aka Boss (1975) ****  Or “Mr. Nigger to you,” as Black Man with No Name Fred “The Hammer” Williamson tells outlaw William Smith.  Terrible Tom’s earnest delivery of the rousing theme song (familiar to any devotee of Synapse’s 42nd Street Forever series) would alone be worth the price of admission, but Boss Nigger offers other pleasant diversions for fans of westerns and blaxploitation, of which this film is a capable hybrid.  Williamson and the comical D’Urville Martin, his sidekick from previous outings, are bounty hunters who set up shop as sheriff and deputy in a lawless western town and proceed to implement “Black Law”, under which such infractions as saying “nigger” in public incur a fine of $20.  Williamson is a large, commanding presence onscreen, but William Smith is more than equal to the task of providing him with a sufficiently scary opponent and can be believed when he threatens the hero, “Your death is gonna be slow and painful, nigger.”  R.G. Armstrong, reliable as the face of country corruption and pusillanimity in the 70s, lends Boss Nigger an added credibility as the town’s crooked mayor, who until now has let Smith and his gang run roughshod over the citizenry.  Mostly lighthearted, harmless fun, Boss Nigger sobers as vengeance is necessitated and ends on a somewhat bitter note.  An indispensable artifact of 70s exploitation cinema, the film was directed by genre veteran Jack Arnold, who had previously collaborated with Williamson on Black Eye but is more famously associated with such 1950s science fiction films as Tarantula, Creature from the Black Lagoon, and The Incredible Shrinking Man.  4 out of 5 stars.

Adios Amigo

Adios Amigo (1975) ***1/2  Williamson is back in action in this sequel, which finds trailwise hustler Richard Pryor (who appears to be drunk or high much of the time) replacing D’Urville Martin as the comic relief companion.  The Hammer not only writes, but takes over in the director’s chair for Adios Amigo, a looser, lesser effort than its predecessor.  Episodic, anarchic, and hardly structured, Adios Amigo lacks both a principal antagonist and the expected narrative thread to pull the viewer neatly along, feeling consequently more like a succession of half-baked sketches than a finished cinematic product.  What plot there is amounts to Williamson’s repeated frustration with all the trouble that comes his way whenever ridiculous con man Pryor crosses his path.  Less serious and less preoccupied with race than Boss Nigger, Adios Amigo is an easygoing, casual, friendly film whose principal draw is the sense of wacky, uninhibited fun it generates.  Pryor in particular is fun to watch, with his best line being, “What’s it look like I’m doin’ here?  I’m stealin’ rocks.”  His funniest scene, however, is probably his card game with Blacula‘s Thalmus Rasulala, here bearded as an eccentric desert peddler with two horny daughters.  Adios Amigo‘s music may lack the funk power of Boss Nigger‘s, but Blue Infernal Machine’s theme song is an appropriately fun encapsulation of the movie’s attitude.  3.5 of 5 stars.

Joshua

Joshua (1976) ****1/2  One of the best films in which Fred Williamson has appeared, Joshua was directed by Larry Spangler, whose previous teamings with the star were The Legend of Nigger Charley and The Soul of Nigger Charley.  Dispensing with the comedy of Boss Nigger and Adios Amigo, thisis a straightforward revenge western with Civil War veteran Williamson tracking the outlaws who murdered his mother.  With fine cinematography making impressive use of majestic Monument Valley locations, and a distinctive, sometimes hypnotic score (credited to unknown Mike Irwin) that mixes acoustic and synthesized elements, unusual for a western, Joshua more than distinguishes itself within the genre.  The snowy expanses that eventually fill the screen recall another offbeat western, The Great Silence; and Williamson, who rides alone for most of his vengeance trail, establishes himself for all time as the black counterpart to Clint Eastwood, channeling something of the ghostly, single-minded revengefulness of High Plains Drifter or The Outlaw Josey Wales.  Apart from the hero’s committed performance, Brenda Venus and Isela Vega are noteworthy as eye candy, and Ralph Willingham, in his only known screen credit, creates one of westerndom’s great raspy old rascal characters in cowardly, constantly giggling second fiddle bad guy Weasle.  Recommended.  4.5 stars.

django-unchained

Quentin Tarantino is a man with perhaps one great film to his name and who has managed to coast on the strength of that beloved opus for the better part of two decades; he does, however, have more than one very good film to his credit, and the gorgeously realized Django Unchained can, happily, be added to that list.  His love letter to the spaghetti western and blaxploitation genres, it is also his rabble-rousing death threat to civilization and as such is something of a triumph of self-loathing.

Jamie Foxx is affectingly earnest in his portrayal of Django, Rousseau’s chained man, suddenly presented with the opportunity of achieving his liberty and reuniting with his enslaved wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington).  Christoph Waltz is no less charming as the German dentist (who, in a gratuitous irony, has been named Dr. King Schultz) who offers Django his freedom in exchange for a profitable partnership in tracking bounties.  Leonardo DiCaprio, who shines most brightly as a villain, plays Calvin Candie, the handsome, debonair slavemaster in possession of Django’s woman.

The fabulous cast is, typically for Tarantino, filled to the brim with familiar character actors and pop culture favorites of the 60s, 70s, and 80s, with Michael Parks, Russ Tamblyn, Bruce Dern, Don Johnson, James Remar, and Franco Nero, star of the original Django, all putting in appearances.  Samuel L. Jackson, meanwhile, has probably the funniest role of his career in Stephen, Candie’s loyal but sassy domestic slave – the representative Uncle Tom, in other words – who resents freeman Django at first sight and who, in the race-baiting theology of Django Unchained, embodies what may be the worst of evils: the complaisant betrayal of his own long-suffering people.

That Django Unchained is so successful and involving is proof of writer-director Tarantino’s dangerousness as a filmmaker.  Tarantino, who bears major responsibility for foisting the torture porn genre on humanity through his endorsement (“Quentin Tarantino presents . . .”) of Eli Roth’s execrable anti-human hit Hostel, continues his desensitization of the American public with his obsessive fetishization of the splattered blood and played-for-laughs agony of bullet-riddled unprogressive white men.

With humor but also an unintentional irony, Tarantino has cast himself in a cameo as one of the slavers revolutionarily liquidated by Django.  It is ironic because what what the man is peddling is in effect hatred of himself – of successful whites and of the rich – as an unwitting accomplice in what Yuri Bezmenov describes as the systematic demoralization of Americans by useful idiots through cultural Marxist contamination.  Exhibit A: the critically heralded oeuvre of Quentin Tarantino.

This reviewer can sympathize with Django’s violent impulse to liberation and even the pleasure he takes in killing the men who obstruct his enjoyment of natural rights.  Where the film flies off the ethical rails is in celebrating the shooting not only of those directly imperiling Django’s liberty, but all of their associates, including Candie’s unarmed and mild-mannered sister.  Her crime is one of complacency and, one suspects, of blood relation to the oppressor – of having inherited slavers’ genes.

This is particularly reckless in a film that makes a point of alluding constantly to the contemporary – with hip-hop music, “fuck”-sprinkled dialogue, joking reference to the Holocaust, characters named after Martin Luther King and an Italian western hero, and Tarantino’s endless self-referential postmodern hipsterism – and through these conscious anachronisms advertises some imagined relevance to the race relations of today.  Designed with the express purpose of ripping open and poking the synthetic psychological wounds of crimes not experienced by anyone alive in America today, Django Unchained is nothing if not a wholly superfluous incitation to racial hatred, genocide, and redistribution of wealth.  It is all the more egregious for being so good.

4.5 stars with accompanying whip-scarred stripes.  Goodbye Uncle Tom remains the most incendiary and entertaining treatment of slavery on film, but Tarantino’s new contribution is certainly no slouch.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Django Unchained is ominous in its flippancy and:

9. Anti-Christian.  White slavemasters return from a funeral singing a hymn.  Religion that allows for such injustice is a fraud.

8. Anti-tobacco.  Monsieur Candie smokes from a cigarette holder like the bourgeois swine he is.  Rank-and-file southern hick psychos chew and spit.

7. Anti-police.  A racist sheriff turns out to be a wanted criminal.

6. Anti-science.  Study of human biodiversity is represented by pseudoscientific phrenology.  Science = racism.

5. Pro-miscegenation.  A Texas woman eyes Django with interest from her window as he rides through her town.  Black love is described as a tar pool that refuses to let go its hold on the fancy of those who enter (i.e., once you go black, you never go back).  The camera seems to want to lick Foxx’s nude physique.

4. Anti-business.  Thoroughly hostile to private property, the film’s representative forms of commerce are vengeful bounty hunting, the slave trade, and mining – the latter utilizing slave labor, naturally.  Wealth is accumulated through cruelty and murder.  A saloon keeper who objects to Django’s presence is chased out of his own establishment.  Private property = slavery.  “I’m runnin’ a business here,” Candie says during one of the most savage scenes of meanness.

3. Anti-South/anti-white male.  While critics will complain of what was previously the “whitewashing” of American history in films, Django Unchained demonstrates that, if anything, brownwashing and brainwashing are at present the order of the day.  Southerners are without exception vile sadists with bad teeth who live to beat, whip, humiliate, muzzle, brand, and castrate blacks.  The effeminate swagger of Billy Crash (Walton Goggins), the most vicious of Candie’s toadies, suggests that white loathing of and desire to neuter blacks is a function of white sexual inadequacy and salivating, latently homosexual penis envy.  Those not participating directly in these activities remain equally guilty for tolerating the status quo and therefore must receive equal punishment.  The conventional incestuous southerner smear receives a nod with what may be hints of Candie’s overly enthusiastic affection for his sister.  Black-on-black violence results from white manipulation.

2. Anti-slavery/anti-racist (i.e., pro-yawn on both counts).  Django Unchained perpetuates the myth that slavery existed not as an economic expediency, but principally as the plaything of whites’ sadism.  Where anti-racist films have previously presented viewers with the “sacrificial Negro” archetype, Django Unchained breaks new ground by inventing the sacrificial honky, the man who absolves the sins of his racial inheritance by dying to liberate blacks.

1. Black supremacist/genocidal.  They mo betta.

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